Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Alvaro Villela Exhibit: Human Nature in Raso da Catarina

December 3rd, 2009 - December 30th, 2009
Monday - Friday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Location
Jazz & Heritage Gallery
1205 North Rampart St
New Orleans, LA 70116

PhotoNola: An Annual Celebration of Photography in New Orleans

Opening: Thursday, Dec 3, 6-8 pm

Human Nature in Raso da Catarina

The first I ever heard about Raso da Catarina was a story of desert, sand and thorn forest, a wilderness without water or mercy. In November 2005 I flew over it by helicopter as a guest of IBAMA, the national environmental protection agency. Seen from the air, the mostly leaden landscape with swathes of red sand was gut-wrenching. As I gazed down at the parched and contorted vastness of this sliver of the heartlands of Northeast Brazil, I was in no doubt why its climate is officially classified as semi-arid, or almost desert: it really was death valley down there.

In October 2006, once CHESF had approved the project for the book, I went to Paulo Afonso to set up the logistics required for the challenge of entering Raso da Catarina. I had to tackle many difficulties, such as finding an experienced guide. Even locating a four-wheel-drive vehicle was harder than expected. It took two months to prepare the expedition, including the search for people and information sources that could reveal the secrets guarded by the place Guimarães Rosa called “the worst desert there is, a wasteland from hell” (in Grande Sertão: Veredas, referring to the fictional Liso do Sussuarão).

Our first sortie into the daunting Raso da Catarina took place in January 2007. Pedro was our guide, driver, cook and factotum. Better known as a farmer, Pedro is a retired employee of CHESF and a connoisseur of the trails and byways that lead into this region, the harshest in the sertão, a godforsaken outback where a goat will often climb on another goat’s back to reach something edible.

Daytime temperatures in the thornbush- and cactus-covered steppe are never less than 40C (104F). Even the teju, a large lizard that loves heat, takes cover in the shade of the desiccated amburana or burrows down into the hot sand until it finds a little humidity, emerging only at night when the temperature falls, as in any desert, to about 15C (60F).

But this eerie place is a paradise for the Pankararé. The gateway to Raso da Catarina is Brejo do Burgo, a village of some 500 Pankararé families in the most humid part of the Indian reservation. They came here after whites evicted them from the banks of the São Francisco. When a water source was discovered at Brejo and the indigenous land was demarcated, many Pankararé who had become acculturated to white society decided to return and settle in the region. While acculturation remains evident, they try to continue preserving their ancestral customs. Rites performed at the sacred Amaro Stone include dancing the Toré and Praiá in adoration of the “Enchanted”, tiny dark-skinned creatures who protect nature. These dances are the acme of indigenous tradition and a cornerstone of the tribe’s cultural identity.

But we found the essence of life in Raso da Catarina at Baixa do Chico, an even smaller and poorer village than Brejo. Here we met Lino, son of the patriarch Saturnino, and his family of some 50 Pankararé. Although Baixa do Chico is the only inhabited place in Raso da Catarina, it’s hardly what you would call an oasis. Confronted by the dusty, scrubby scenery, humble dwellings, desolate church, and expressions of hardship and distrust on local faces, we could easily imagine ourselves back in some past century if it had not been for two pairs of Havaianas rubber sandals and the threadbare jeans worn by one of the headscarved women. But that was only our first impression. The once unworldly peasants of Baixa do Chico have been changed for ever by the two daily hours of television to which they are submitted, quite happily it must be said. A diesel generator supplies enough electricity to power the only TV set in the village from 6-8 p.m. The same generator also drives the pump that pipes water from a 250-meter well to all nine homes in the village.

Over the ensuing months I got to the know the Pankararé well, not least thanks to a productive mutual learning process that included talking about my photographs and holding workshops for children and adults to teach them photography.

Humankind’s immense capacity to survive and be happy is put to the test in these parts. Everything points to the impossibility of living here, but the children’s delightful hubbub as they play the most innocent games, leisurely conversations in the shade of a big tree, partying when a goat is killed to feed a family or grilled armadillo is prepared, all this made me see the minimalism of life in the sertão. A little is a lot: that’s the essence of life in Raso da Catarina.

Region of fables and fairy tales to which children listen in awe, territory of wild horses, magical beings and animals reputed extinct, Raso da Catarina is also famous as Lampião’s hiding-place and is said to bear the name of Baroness Catarina, who hid a treasure there, lost her way, and died of thirst. So the region is named for a woman, like an American hurricane.

Once upon a time even Petrobras was interested in Raso da Catarina, surveying the region for oil in the 1960s. The engineers bored holes, used explosives and carved roads everywhere, paving the way for hunters who literally fell upon the local wildlife. In the 1980s Raso da Catarina almost became a nuclear waste disposal site.

The quintessence of the sertão is precisely here in Raso da Catarina, marked by the signs of social banditry led by Lampião and of the messianism spearheaded by Antônio Conselheiro. Time here passes far more slowly. Unlike any nature reserve, Raso da Catarina melds fantasy and reality so closely that they can no longer be distinguished from each other. Headless mules and fire snakes, for example, stalk the territory freely, and shades of rifle-toting cangaceiros spook the mounts of unwary cowhands. Power pylons sprout from the ground like the mandacaru cactus in winter, and high-voltage cables are entwined with the misshapen vegetation. The region sustains more than geographical splendor and endangered wildlife. It is the last refuge for one of the best protected treasures of the sertão, a wealth that neither glitters nor can be touched: the ancestral memories of the sertanejo. It conserves places where an old man’s eyes sparkle when someone says this was once the sea and shells can still be found in the soil. Some remember travelers who lost their way and never returned. A boy squatting at his front door while playing with dry corn cobs tells stories of Lampião’s heroic deeds and stratagems for outwitting the government troops. There is a grain of truth in all these tales, because solitude makes fantasy a haven.

- Alvaro Villela

Alvaro Villela is a Brazilian photographer who lives in Salvador, Bahia.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Location:

Jazz & Heritage Gallery
1205 North Rampart St
New Orleans, LA 70116
10 am – 4 pm, Mon – Fri
504-558-6100

View the Event on the PhotoNola Website

LATEST SITE UPDATES

NEWS

EVENTS

RESOURCES

All Events

Upcoming Events

Newcomb Art Museum Exhibit Features Modern Sculptures Inspired by Mexican Ceramics

View Full Event Description

Come celebrate the opening of Newcomb Art Museum’s latest exhibitions Clay in Transit featuring contemporary Mexican ceramics and Clay in Place featuring Newcomb pottery and guild plus other never-before-exhibited pieces from the permanent collection.The exhibit presents the work of seven Mexican-born sculptors who bridge the past and present by creating contemporary pieces using an ancient medium. The exhibit will feature works by Ana Gómez, Saúl Kaminer, Perla Krauze, María José Lavín, María José de la Macorra, Gustavo Pérez, Paloma Torres.

5:30 PM
Private VIP/members reception featuring catering by Araña, a tequila tasting, specialty cocktails, and music.

6:30 PM
Curatorial talk with Nuria Rodriguez Sadurni, Director of Special Projects at the Cultural Cooperation office of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Free and open to the public.

7:30-9:00 PM
Public reception.

Exhibition curator and artist Paloma Torres explains, “In this contemporary moment, clay is a borderline. It is a material that has played a critical role in the development of civilization: early man used clay not only to represent spiritual concerns but also to hold food and construct homes.” While made of a primeval material, the exhibited works nonetheless reflect the artists’ twenty-first-century aesthetics and concerns as well as their fluency in diverse media—from painting and drawing to video, graphic design, and architecture.

The exhibit will run from January 18, 2018, through March 24, 2018. For more information on the exhibit and the artists, please visit the Newcomb Art Museum’s website.

Clay in Transit is presented in collaboration with the Consulate of Mexico.

The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jennifer Wooster (NC ’91), Lora & Don Peters (A&S ’81), Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University, Andrew and Eva Martinez, and the Newcomb Art Museum advisory board



LSU and The Modern History Colloquium and the Ogden Honors College: Lecture Series

View Full Event Description

The Modern History Colloquium and the Ogden Honors College invites you to a series of lectures hosted by LSU

Father Perez’s Revolution: Constitutional Catholicism in 20th Century Mexico
Professor Matthew Butler (UT-Austin)
Thursday, January 18th at 6:00 PM
French House, Grand Salon

Dr. Butler is one of the preeminent scholars of the Catholic Church and politics in 20th century Mexico. He is the author of Popular Piety and Political Identity in Mexico’s Cristero Rebellion (Oxford, 2004) and Faith and Impiety in Revolutionary Mexico (Palgrave, 2007). Butler will speak about his forthcoming book, describing religious change and adaptation during and after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1940).

Provincializing 1968 Mexico: A Historiographical Critique
Professor Jaime Pensado (Notre Dame)
Friday, January 19th at 3:30 PM
French House, Feature Classroom

Dr. Pensado is the author of Rebel Mexico: Student Unrest and Authoritarian Political Culture During the Long Sixties (Stanford, 2013). His new book project takes up a set of research questions that have not been addressed in the historiography of modern Mexico, but which he argues, will complicate our understanding of the turbulent, combative, and at a times contradictory character of the Cold War era: how did conservative and progressive sectors of the Catholic Church—particularly those invested in education, student politics and entertainment—respond to the contentious environment that emerged inside Mexico’s most important universities during the postwar era? How did young Catholic students respond to the rise of leftist militancy that came to characterize their schools in the wake of the Cuban Revolution?

All Events Open to the Public
For more information on the event, click here.

Professional Development Opportunity: Latin American Resources for the K-12 Classroom

View Full Event Description

S.S. NOLA, in collaboration with the Latin American Resource Center, will be hosting a professional development opportunity for K-12 educators on Saturday, January 20, 2018, to examine the ways in which educators can utilize and share resources on Latin America in the classroom. This is a free workshop for K-12 educators and refreshments will be served. Visit the official event website for more information and to register.

S.S. NOLA was created to support K-12 social studies teachers in the New Orleans area by showcasing student-centered lesson plans, loaning classroom supplies free of charge, and hosting professional development workshops. To learn more about the mission of S.S. NOLA, visit their official website, and don’t forget to follow them on Twitter and Facebook! S.S. NOLA is run by Brooke Grant, a professor of practice in the Tulane Teacher Preparation and Certification program.

Stone Center for Latin American Studies to Host 10th Annual Workshop on Field Research Methods

View Full Event Description

Join us at the Stone Center for Latin American Studies for the 10th Annual Weekend Workshop on Field Research Methods on January 27, 2018. The application deadline is January 20, 2018.

How will you get the data you need for your thesis or dissertation? Do you envision immersing yourself for months in the local culture, or tromping the hills and farms seeking respondents? Sorting through dusty archives? Observing musicians at work in the plaza? Downloading and crunching numbers on a computer? For any of these approaches: How might you get there, from here?

This workshop aims to help you approach your data collection and analysis for your thesis or dissertation topic, and to adapt and refine your topic to be more feasible. You will take your research project ideas to the next stop—whatever that may be, include raising travel grants. Learn to:

  • Plan more efficiently, feasible, and rewarding fieldwork
  • Prepare more compelling and persuasive grant proposals
  • Navigate choices of research methods and course offerings on campus
  • Become a better research and fieldwork team-member

Format
This is an engaged, hands-on, informal workshop. Everyone shares ideas and participates. We will explore and compare research approaches, share experiences and brainstorm alternatives. You will be encouraged to think differently about your topic, questions, and study sites as well as language preparation, budgets, and logistics. The participatory format is intended to spark constructive new thinking, strategies, and student networks to continue learning about (and conducting) field research.

Who is leading this?
Laura Murphy, PhD, faculty in Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, and affiliate faculty to the Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

Who is this for?
This workshop is targeted to Stone Center graduate students as well as graduate students from other programs (GOHB, CCC, humanities, sciences, and others) if space is available. The workshop will be particularly helpful for those who envision research with human subjects.

Sign up
Sign up as soon as you can! Apply by January 20, 2018, at the latest to confirm your stop. Send an email with the following details:

  • Your name
  • Department and Degree program
  • Year at Tulane
  • Prior experience in research, especially field research
  • Academic training in research design and methods
  • Include a 1-paragraphy statement of your current research interests and immediate plans/needs (i.e. organize summer field research)

Light breakfast and lunch will be provided. Not for credit.

For more information and/or to apply: Contact Laura Murphy at lmurphy2@tulane.edu or Jimmy Huck at jhuck@tulane.edu.

CALL FOR PAPERS: Foreign Language Pedagogy and Research

View Full Event Description

Call for Papers: Foreign Language Pedagogy and Research: New Approaches to Old Challenges
The goal of this symposium is to bring the Tulane University foreign language instructor community together by sharing foreign language teaching ideas, methods and practices. The symposium is open to all foreign language instructors and graduate students are strongly encouraged to submit a proposal.

Submissions:

  • Deadline for abstract submission: January 31st, 2018
  • Proposal should include a one-page description of the presentation and the name(s) and contact information of the (co)-presenter(s).
  • Presentations will be organized with a general format of 15 minutes for topic presentation/hands-on demonstration and 5 minutes for questions/discussion.
  • Interactive presentations are strongly encouraged. Presentations should be in English, however examples/exercises can be in the target language.
  • All submissions should be sent to rjudd@tulane.edu.
  • Notifications of acceptance will be sent by February, 20th 2018.

For more information about the symposium, guidelines, or requirements, please email:
Ryan Judd at rjudd@tulane.edu:mailto:rjudd@tulane.edu,
Roxanne Davilá at rdavila@tulane.edu:mailto:rdavila@tulane.edu, or
Charles Mignot at cmignot@tulane.edu:mailto:cmignot@tulane.edu.

Global Read Webinar Series: Diverse Social Justice Books for the High School Classroom

View Full Event Description

Once a month, the World Area Book Awards (Américas Award, Africana Book Award, Middle East Outreach Book Award, South Asia Book Award) sponsor a free 60 minute webinar on a book recognized by one of the awards and facilitate a discussion with the author on how to incorporate the book into the classroom. The 2018 Spring Webinar Series focuses on social justice. We encourage educators to read the books with your colleagues, students, and community, and then join us to hear more from the author.

On Thursday, February 8, 2018, join us for a 60 minute webinar/chat focused on Margarita Engle’s recent book Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words. In this haunting yet hopeful novel in verse, award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the story of Antonio Chuffat, a young man of African, Chinese, and Cuban descent who became a champion of civil rights. The webinar will be available through Blackboard Collaborate. The book is appropriate for students in grades 8-12.